Minds and Machines

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 31–52

Reverse Psychologism, Cognition and Content

  • Terry Dartnall

DOI: 10.1023/A:1008398403730

Cite this article as:
Dartnall, T. Minds and Machines (2000) 10: 31. doi:10.1023/A:1008398403730


The confusion between cognitive states and the content of cognitive states that gives rise to psychologism also gives rise to reverse psychologism. Weak reverse psychologism says that we can study cognitive states by studying content – for instance, that we can study the mind by studying linguistics or logic. This attitude is endemic in cognitive science and linguistic theory. Strong reverse psychologism says that we can generate cognitive states by giving computers representations that express the content of cognitive states and that play a role in causing appropriate behaviour. This gives us strong representational, classical AI (REPSCAI), and I argue that it cannot succeed. This is not, as Searle claims in his Chinese Room Argument, because syntactic manipulation cannot generate content. Syntactic manipulation can generate content, and this is abundantly clear in the Chinese Room scenano. REPSCAI cannot succeed because inner content is not sufficient for cognition, even when the representations that carry the content play a role in generating appropriate behaviour.

cognitioncontentpsychologismreverse psychologismmeaningpropositioncognitive sciencestrong AIChinese RoomChinese Gymnasium

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terry Dartnall

There are no affiliations available